Bill to create Tribal education technical assistance centers passes House Education Committee

Stephanie Montoya

Centers will provide technical assistance in support of student  
success and culturally-relevant education 

The New Mexico Higher Education Department celebrated the unanimous passage of legislation from the House Education Committee Friday creating two new Tribal education technical assistance centers to support Tribal leaders and educators in developing resources leading to better outcomes for Native American students, families, and communities. 

House Bill 280, American Indian Education Technical Assistance Centers, sponsored by Representative Derrick Lente and Senator Benny Shendo, Jr. will establish two Tribal education technical assistance centers to serve Tribes, Nations, and Pueblos in geographically diverse areas of the state. The centers will work in partnership with Tribal governments, education agencies, schools, and state agencies to develop culturally-relevant instructional materials, enhance Indigenous language instruction, support Indigenous teacher training and policy recommendations, among other benefits. 

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s 2023 budget recommends $2.25 million to establish and sustain the centers.  

“Along with Gov. Lujan Grisham and our sister agencies, we believe that Native American students, families, and educators deserve to have dedicated resources that improve outcomes and sustain cultures, and we are committed to providing the technical support they need to put initiatives into action. House Bill 280 supports continued partnership toward implementing policies that advance education for Native American students in New Mexico,” said Higher Education Secretary Stephanie M. Rodriguez.   

“The Public Education Department embraces the education partnerships across New Mexico that led to and are at the core of this bill. Because there is such power in the work that is happening in Tribal communities to honor Indigenous cultures and languages, the centers will ensure Tribal leaders and education departments are afforded the technical resources and support they deserve to serve schools and Native American students, our future leaders,” Interim Public Education Department Secretary Mariana Padilla.  

“The Tribal education technical centers are an investment in educational sovereignty,” said Assistant Secretary for Native American Early Education and Care. “As Indigenous people, the funds of knowledge approach is evident in our cultures and traditions and the Tribal Technical Assistance Centers will create opportunities for sharing knowledge and building capacity. ECECD is excited to partner with the Centers and Tribal leaders to strengthen and sustain their early childhood systems. We are elated to continue our collaboration with the Public Education and Higher Education Departments in this cradle to career initiative,” said Assistant Secretary for Native American Early Childhood Education and Care Cotillion Sneddy

The centers will focus on and sustain Indigenous values, languages, educational practices, and culture. Efforts at the centers will center on the development of culturally-relevant instructional materials by Native American faculty, educational professionals, and Tribal experts who bring lived cultural experience. The centers will also provide professional development for teachers and administrators, the recruitment of Indigenous educators, development of an Indigenous teacher education workforce, and provide support in developing policy proposals and fundraising efforts benefitting Native American students. Any institution serving Native American students would be eligible for assistance through the centers including school districts, charter schools, early childhood centers, colleges and universities, and Bureau of Indian Education schools.  

“The heart of the technical assistance centers is to create a conduit for multiple partners with expertise across the spectrum to support Tribal education departments, schools, teachers, school districts, and school boards to address and overcome the magnitude of the challenges we face in the lack of culturally-relevant curriculum and focused programming for our Indigenous children and their communities. The vision is driven by Tribal leaders, Tribal advocates, and Native faculty. As we make Tribes part of the education framework in our state, we will share the responsibility to fulfill the promise of an education that does not sacrifice our very being.  This is an unprecedented partnership with Gov. Lujan Grisham to begin the transformation of education for our children,” said bill sponsor Representative Derrick J. Lente

“This legislation is another example of compassionate public policy through targeted investments in New Mexico’s brightest resource, our youth. By leveraging the full breadth of tools and resources available to the Higher Education Department, Public Education Department, and Early Childhood Education and Care Department, these technical assistance centers will expand the horizon of opportunities available to Indigenous youth and communities by serving as a hub for training, planning, and tribal consultation. From building our communities’ career and technical education capacity, to supplementing language revitalization programs, to expanding the education pathways accessible to adult learners, we are laying the foundation for the next generation of culturally relevant and linguistically appropriate curriculum,” said bill sponsor Senator Benny Shendo, Jr. 

Nearly 11 percent of New Mexico residents identify as Native American and 23 sovereign Tribes, Nations, and Pueblos exist within the state. In 2022, 47,463 K-12 students were Native American, 10,084 Native American students were enrolled in a New Mexico college, and 7,090 Native American children participated in early childhood and childcare centers.